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Why There's Something Stale These Days About Event Ticketing

Next time you're buying tix for that big concert, you'll probably notice all the things that are wrong.
Why There's Something Stale These Days About Event Ticketing
Image credit: Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The event-ticketing industry has a long, rich history, with generations of consumers worldwide paying to reserve seats for plays, sporting events, conferences, travel, concerts, movies and other entertainment. And in recent years, ticketing technology has evolved: Cconsumers have moved to booking tickets online, and now need only to show a smartphone barcode, to gain entry.

Related: This Company Wants to Disrupt Ticketmaster's Tight Grip on Your Favorite Events

Yet, even as this technology has made ticket sales and use easier for event participants, it's also lagged behind the technology of many other industries. The result: It doesn’t always provide value for the people selling those tickets.

One problem is that while the many types of ticketed experiences have similarities, their massive differences can make general ticketing platforms ineffective and antiquated.

Here are some of the weaknesses in online ticketing today that make it feel stale and may even prevent you -- if your business relies on tickets -- from building up that business on the folks attending your event or checking out your product.

Committing to one service

Ticketmaster, founded in 1976, has long been the leader in event ticketing, initially setting up physical locations at event venues, record stores and other heavily trafficked locations. Today’s consumers can purchase tickets online or even through a dedicated app, but to use Ticketmaster's service, customers must create an account, which is time-consuming for those who only occasionally purchase tickets.

For event hosts that want a one-off solution, Eventbrite has become a popular alternative. However, even that alternative hasn’t evolved much since its 2006 inception. The addition of competitors like Etix and the MLB’s Tickets.com has led to some confusion among brands that want a solution that fits their needs.

Teams that offer stadium tours, for example, often can’t find the right tool, and instead fall back on ticketing software (like Tickets.com) that was designed to sell seats in stadiums, not stadium tours and other experiential events.

Related: An App That Moves Sports Fans to Better Seats

Certainly, ticketing companies can’t be everything for everyone. But we’re already seeing specialization -- as companies like Ticketfly and Eventbrite strive to steer themselves toward music (and have made several acquisitions to further their product’s usability in that space and penetration into the market).

Expense

Fees have become another issue in the competitive world of ticket sales. Ticketmaster’s fee issue has become widely known, especially in the wake of a class action lawsuit for hidden fees in ticket sales. The company is now giving away free tickets to those who purchased its tickets between 1999 and 2013. Still, many event hosts must still turn to Ticketmaster to handle their sales, especially in the always popular concert space.

Lacking competitors threatening to cut its annual earnings,Ticketmaster has little incentive to lower its fees (which can often add up to more than 40 percent of the ticket price). This monopoly seems to have led to stagnation, rather than any move by the service to find better ways to serve its customers and event producers.

Lack of analytics

No matter what the industry, most companies these days are placing a high priority on data. Technology has made it possible to track customer activity in real time, giving professionals the ability to make quick adjustments when they notice a particular approach isn’t working.

But many popular event ticketing solutions fall short in this area, giving event coordinators little to no information on the customers attending their events. And this is a problem because it’s no longer enough to simply have numbers. To remain competitive, event hosts need to know the demographics of those buying tickets, where they were referred from, what their other interests are, and other demographic information.

Current trends point to the rise of companies offering booking processes that can be configured for different purposes. AnyRoad, for example, offers an Experience Relationship Management (ERM) platform that includes ticketing services with the event host in mind.

This type of system works to collect and monetize data on the customers attending events and their experiences. This information can be especially useful for organizations that want to follow up later to close deals or build long-term relationships with participants.

As event-ticketing services emerge to provide the data and user-experience information event producers desire, companies that previously held a monopoly in the ticketing space may find it increasingly difficult to compete.

They may then be forced to innovate their stale platforms or be left behind. Either way, event producers and marketers are the ones who can benefit from a better user experience and actionable details on the customers interacting with their events.

Bad user experiences

Innovative brands know that user experience is top priority for businesses that want to win and retain customers. Many event-ticketing services haven’t gotten that message however.

In addition to requiring first-time purchasers to set up accounts, these services also fail to provide personalized experiences many consumers are coming to expect for the event, session or tour they are booking. Instead of monitoring and learning from each visitor’s behaviors, to provide a more customized session the next time they visit their website, outdated ticketing services are displaying the same information for every visiting customer.

What’s more, they're also failing to target buyers outside of the site with emails and ads that appeal to their demonstrated interests.

Even larger organizations like the United Nations have turned to concert-ticketing platforms to run their immersive marketing. The problem, of course, is that the U.N. runs tours as a form of PR/parketing, and concert software is structured specifically for live shows -- even going so far as to offer seat selections and a user experience built for concerts.

These days ,you find many companies and organizations turning to “bandaid” software solutions that don’t quite make the grade.

Examples include platforms made for hot air balloon outfits and boating companies, and even scheduling software built for meeting appointments.

A scourge of bots

Of course one of the worst user experiences has to include the bot phenomenon, which for several years has made life difficult for artists, concert-goers and  big ticket sellers alike. A bot attack occurs when scalpers use sophisticated computer programs to buy up thousands of tickets in seconds, before human customers can enter enough information to buy even one of their own.

This leaves the humans with no choice but to resort to the secondary market, paying much higher prices than the face value the bots' creators paid. This has become such a problem that lawmakers are fighting to ban the practice across the country.

Ticketmaster has recently cracked down on the practice, allowing customers to register as “verified fans,” which qualifies them to purchase tickets first. Fans are vetted through social media, event pages, email and other methods to get in line ahead of bots when tickets go on sale. This method, however, doesn't always work, according to the report of a consumer participating in a "vetted" sale of Bruce Springsteen on Broadway tickets.

Moving forward, data will likely be the answer to overriding bots in the ticketing process. Ticket sellers will need to stay one step ahead of the bots, using analytics to monitor how customers interact during the ticket-buying process, as well as finding ways to block the way the scalpers behind the bots use the system to their advantage.

Lack of customization

Ticket buyers aren’t the only ones who need a pleasant user experience. The many event hosts who contract with these services to handle ticket sales need an easy-to-use interface customized to their needs.

Unfortunately, many of the more popular services lack features that consider the host’s needs. This is especially true for event producers with a consistent need to set up ticket sales on a specific platform. Over time, these hosts should find that the solution they’re using learns their preferences and creates a customized environment. 

Related: 4 Ways Technology Is Changing the Events Industry

The biggest problem with current ticketing solutions, then, is that they’re designed for use in a specific way even though producers' needs vary widely according to whether the event is a concert, business conference or theatrical performance. The tools and the processes should be different, depending on the event. After all, the moment a customer books an event is the beginning of the overall experience, and all players in that experience should want it to start off on the right foot.

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